People v. Rhinehart, Cr. 14848

Decision Date20 March 1973
Docket NumberCr. 14848
Citation9 Cal.3d 139,507 P.2d 642,107 Cal.Rptr. 34
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
Parties, 507 P.2d 642 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Stanley Carl RHINEHART, Defendant and Appellant. In Bank

Edward J. Horowitz, Los Angeles, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for defendant and appellant.

Evelle J. Younger, Atty. Gen., William E. James, Asst. Atty. Gen., Howard J. Schwab and Lawrence P. Scherb, Deputy Attys. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.


Defendant was charged by information with two counts of murder. His request to represent himself in propria persona was denied, and he pleaded not guilty to both counts. His motion to suppress certain evidence was denied, as was his motion for propria persona privilege to use the law library in the jail. After trial by a jury, defendant was found guilty of two counts of murder in the first degree. At the penalty phase, the jury fixed the penalty at death for both counts, and defendant was sentenced accordingly. This appeal is automatic. (Pen.Code, § 1239, subd. (b).)

On August 25, 1969, in the early afternoon, defendant borrowed a 1957 black Chevrolet from a friend, James Christopher Ashley. Around 1 p.m., defendant went to the apartment of another friend, George Deo, arriving in Ashley's car. Deo indicated that he had a friend who wanted to buy some marijuana. Defendant told him he might know someone who had marijuana for sale and said that he would go and see. Defendant thereupon left, having decided to buy some alfalfa and catnip from a pet shop and sell it as marijuana. Around 3 p.m., defendant returned to Deo's apartment. He had the alleged 'marijuana' in two sacks. About the same time, Osborne Crump, Deo's friend who was the prospective purchaser, arrived, driving a 1967 light-colored Pontiac belonging to his fiancee, Patricia Graham. Crump had about $400 in his possession, including a $50 bill and some $20's and $10's. Crump first bought one sack of the 'marijuana' for $150, and then, according to defendant's testimony, bought the other shortly thereafter for $135, paying a total of $285. The sacks supposedly containing marijuana were left at Deo's apartment.

Crump, after picking up Miss Graham at her place of employment, returned to Deo's apartment for the marijuana around 5:30 p.m. Crump and Deo lit a cigarette rolled from the substance defendant had sold as marijuana and then realized that Crump had paid some 'good money' for something that was not 'good marijuana.' Between 6:15 and 8 p.m., efforts were made to locate defendant, but they were unsuccessful.

According to Ashley's testimony, while he and defendant were driving north on Wilmington just about sundown, he heard a man in a 1967 Pontiac travelling on Wilmington in the same direction call out, 'Rhinehart' (defendant's name). Ashley was shown a picture of Miss Graham's car, and he said that it looked like the same car. He said that there were two Negro persons in the vehicle, a male and a female. Ashley drove to 137th, made a left turn, and stopped. The 1967 Pontiac followed and pulled up behind Ashley's car. Defendant got out and went over and talked with the person on the driver's side of the Pontiac. He returned to Ashley's car and asked that Ashley drive down 137th, which dead-ends about two blocks west of where the cars had stopped. Ashley made a U-turn at the dead-end and stopped his car on the south side of 137th facing east. The Pontiac followed and stopped six or seven feet behind Ashley's car. A white Chevrolet was parked in back of where the Pontiac stopped.

Ashley further testified that defendant told him that he was getting out; that when defendant did so, there was nothing unusual about his personality, and he appeared to be entirely normal; that defendant went back toward the Pontiac; that he (Ashley) then left; and that by this time it was getting dark.

Lynn Rodgers, a 15-year-old girl residing at 1025 West 137th Street (in the block where the street dead-ends), testified that about a quarter to nine on the evening of August 25, 1969, she was preparing for bed. She was looking out of the window, and the reflection of lights on a car attracted her attention. She saw that a Pontiac had backed up in front of her house and stopped a couple of feet ahead of a white Chevrolet parked on the street. Then a black Chevrolet drove up and stopped in front of the Pontiac. There appeared to be two Negro men in the black Chevrolet; and one of them got out, walked over to the Pontiac, and opened the door on the passenger's side. Miss Rodgers walked away from the window, assuming that the person opening the door on the passenger's side of the Pontiac was getting a ride. She said the black Chevrolet had been driven off.

As Miss Rodgers walked away from the window, she heard a popping noise like firecrackers, but said there were not more than three 'pops.' She turned, went back to the window, and looked out. The door to the Pontiac was wide open, and a man was standing with his back against it about an inch from the edge of the door on the left side. A girl fell from the car and started crawling to go under the white Chevrolet. The view Miss Rodgers had of the man was in profile, because he was looking inside the car. Miss Rodgers testified that the street lights were on at the time and that the man she saw was defendant.

Miss Rodgers said that the young lady who fell out of the car and started crawling under the Chevrolet was calling for help. Miss Rodgers, with her father and her brother, went to their front porch. She saw that the girl had crawled under the car and that defendant was clicking a gun, directing it toward the side of the girl's head, and saying, 'There's nothing left, nothing else left in the gun' and 'Baby, why don't you come out from up under there?' Defendant turned in Miss Rodgers' direction, and she had another view of his face.

According to Miss Rodgers' testimony, defendant turned and walked over to the driver's side of the Pontiac, opened the door, and said, 'Move over.' The person in the car did not move. It looked as though defendant pushed him over. Miss Rodgers heard a sound like the roaring of an accelerator and saw what appeared to be a human form in the automobile fall over. Defendant entered the car after the roaring of the accelerator, closed the door, and drove off.

Earl Dwayne Rodgers, Miss Rodgers' brother, testified that on August 25, 1969, he and his father were watching television and heard some shots. They jumped up to see what was happening. A girl was under a car, and defendant was nearby talking to her. While he was talking, he had a gun in his left hand; and he clicked the gun by the girl's head about three times.

Evelyn Green testified that she resided at 1016 West 137th Street. She came home on August 25, 1969, about three or four minutes before 9 p.m., driving a vehicle. As she turned towards 137th Street off of Grandee, there were two cars that came all the way down 137th Street. She drove down the street to her driveway, with the cars following behind her. She said that she paid special attention to the people in the cars, because her house had been burglarized several times. She parked her car in front of the garage and then went around and closed the garage door (which had been left open) in order to get a good look at the people who were in the car. Mrs. Green saw defendant get out of the light-colored car. She later heard some shots or loud reports and called the police. While she was talking on the telephone, three shots were fired. The only person she saw outside the car was defendant.

According to Ashley's testimony, he saw defendant again around 11 o'clock that evening at the home of a friend, and around 11:30 or 12 they went together to 91st and Western to a club where gambling occurs. At that time, Ashley saw defendant in possession of a $50 bill.

Police officers for the City of Compton sent to investigate the crime arrived shortly after 9:20 p.m. The female gunshot victim was moved by ambulance to a hospital, where she died soon after arrival. Among other things, the officers found at the scent of the crime a slip of paper bearing an address and telephone number on one side and a series of telephone numbers on the other side. Included was the number 774--2658. Upon learning that 774--2658 was George Deo's telephone number, police officers went to his residence looking for him. He was not at home, but they left word that a young woman had been murdered and that they would like to talk with him. Upon receiving the message, Deo, accompanied by Mills, went to the Compton Police Station. Later in the evening, Deo went to the hospital to which Miss Graham had been taken, and he identified her body.

A search was made for defendant. He was finally located at approximately 5:30 a.m. on August 26, 1969, in bed asleep at his mother's home and was told that he was under arrest for suspicion of murder and that he was to get up and dress.

Some time after 9 a.m. on August 26, 1969, the Pontiac was found at the corner of Piru and Willowbrook. Crump's body, with his clothing blood-soaked and his pants pockets turned inside-out, was lying on the front seat. A wallet, containing Crump's identification but no money, and a woman's purse were found inside the car. No money was discovered in the car, but six pennies were found in the victim's pockets.

Testimony of police officers reveals, among other things, that the distance from the curbline to the windows of the Rodgers' home is 49 1/2 feet; that the area is lights; that defendant's fingerprints were lights; that defendant's fingerprints wre found on the Pontiac; and that the bullets removed from both Miss Graham's body and Crump's body were fired from the same weapon.

Arthur Camarillo, one of the officers, testified that he conducted an interview with defendant at approximately 9:30 a.m. August 26, 1969, first advising him of his constitutional...

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